With the international break at its end, Premier League clubs are welcoming players back to their training grounds with more than a little trepidation.
Has the star player picked up a knock that could keep them out of their first tie back? Will those that have travelled far be match-fit for a Saturday 12.30pm kick-off?
Or will momentum built up before the break have disappeared into thin air?
But just as some clubs might bemoan the break for returning players long on minutes or short on fitness, others can watch their players resettle in the squad having built up confidence or impressive form.
Here, Mail Sport assesses the winners and losers of the international break.
Jurgen Klopp (centre) will be particularly pleased with the performances of Reds abroad
Harry Maguire (right) qualified with England in a bid to hunt down another shot at Euros glory
But other internationals were unable to enjoy a totally charmed break, such as Arsenal’s Gabriel Magalhaes (right)
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They may have had their unbeaten start shaken by a particularly controversial day out at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but Liverpool were flying before the international break and look set to go on straight after it.
Reds abroad have been in fine fettle, led by 22-year-old Hungary captain Dominik Szoboslzai scoring from the spot and assisting another in a vital comeback draw against Lithuania which has shored up the Carpathians hold at the top of Euro 2024 qualifying group G. Darwin Nunez looked zesty against Brazil too, scoring his fourth in blue and white for Uruguay.
Virgil Van Dijk, captaining the Netherlands, sealed an important win for the Oranje as he too scored a penalty in a cagey 1-0 win against Greece that lifted the side above their opponents to sit within spitting distance of qualification for next year’s European championships. Ahead of the Merseyside derby, Klopp should be delighted to welcoming back players brimful of confidence – and largely without injury.
Hungary captain Dominik Szoboszlai helped drag his side back from the brink of a shock defeat to Lithuania
Harry Wilson stunned Croatia and will hope his striking form translates to goals for Fulham
Wales’ clash against Croatia was a must-win in for any hope of securing automatic qualification, but few might have thought they could have pulled it off against the World Cup bronze medallists. But pull it off they did, courtesy of a barnstorming performance from Wilson in his 50th appearance in red.
Striking twice in the second-half, Wilson’s fizzing energy proved all the difference Wales needed in the home victory, just a few days after a routine shellacking of Gibraltar in an earlier international friendly.
The 26-year-old has had a stuttered start to his 2023-24 club campaign with Fulham, failing to get on the scoresheet thus far and registering a solitary assist during the Cottagers’ 2-1 win against Norwich, but an impressive international performance could yet light a fire in the winger that his domestic side could badly use.
In seasons gone by, an international break might have felt like a stay of execution for Tottenham supporters – a placid respite from the woes of dismal club form. Not so under Ange Postecoglou, whose side’s electrifying, unbeaten Premier League start has seen him – and his players – awarded unprecedented back-to-back honours for August and September.
Whilst there’s no ruling yet on October’s manager of the month candidates, Postecoglou is unlikely to miss out on a spot in the shortlist. Tottenham look strong enough to kick on, with a number of players – including star summer signing James Maddison – impressing over the break. Destiny Udogie and Micky van de Ven were additionally rewarded with their fine Spurs form with international debuts.
More importantly, however, the club managed to avoid picking up the dreaded international break niggle, with international duty all to often through a spanner in the works at fit and firing sides. Fans held their breath as Son Heung-min limped down the tunnel at half-time against Vietnam for South Korea – but were reassured by the player’s reappearance for the full 90 minutes, with head coach Jurgen Klinsman sharing that there had been ‘no recurrence’ of the mild muscle injury in the second-half.
Ange Postecoglou was enjoying life at the top of the table before the break – but the internationals are unlikely to slow down his Spurs machine
Son Heung-min gave fans a scare after showing discomfort against Vietnam but still made the scoresheet for South Korea
Spurs’ new recruit Micky van de Ven was one of a few players to pick up an international debut
MAN UNITED’S STRUGGLERS
Marcus Rashford, Harry Maguire, and Scott McTominay may not have had the strongest starts to their season in club colours, but all three players remain domestic failsafes – and this could yet pay dividends for Erik ten Hag. Maguire in particular has been a contentious case, called upon by the Dutch manager only as injuries stack up in their number in United’s backline, but the England star is enjoying a promising run.
Like McTominay, he was a vital presence against Brentford for the Red Devils just before the break, and although his consistent inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s starting XI has raised eyebrows due to his lack of club minutes, Maguire was in fine form in England’s 3-1 victory over Italy.
McTominay was unlucky to have what would have been a jaw-dropper ruled out against Spain, but coupled with his sparkling substitute appearance against the Bees, he is mounting a compelling case for his inclusion in United’s starting XI as Ten Hag continues to mull his midfield puzzle.
Scott McTominay (centre) continued building his form for Scotland – and he will hope Erik ten Hag takes note
Spare a thought for those in west London, buoyed up by a 4-1 thumping at Burnley and already dreaming of silverware. Reality struck with a vengeance as before the international break had even had a chance to get started, with Armando Broja the first to return to Cobham ahead of schedule after spending just two days with Albania.
The striker recently returned from a long-term spell on the sidelines and was quick to rise to the occasion in the enforced absence of Nicolas Jackson, scoring in his first full start against Fulham. Worst still could be the loss of Cole Palmer, who ahead of the break was fast establishing a spot in Mauricio Pochettino’s starting XI. After captaining England’s U21 side in their 9-1 demolition of Serbia, Palmer limped off in the 52nd minute and was quick to return to the capital.
The Blues are yet to confirm whether either is in contention to face Arsenal, but amidst similarly disconsolating news that Romeo Lavia won’t even contemplate making his debut until December, Chelsea fans are increasingly convinced of an injury curse.
Chelsea fans wondered if they were cursed as they watched Cole Palmer limp off vs Serbia
Andy Robertson was skittled by Unai Simon in a nasty collision as Scotland faced Spain
The international break hasn’t been all smiles for Jurgen Klopp, however, who will miss out on the services of one of his defensive generals just in time for the upcoming Merseyside derby.
Robertson was skittled in a high collision with Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon during Scotland’s 2-0 defeat against the home side and dislocated his shoulder, sporting a sling as he greeted the fans at the final whistle.
The loss of Robertson, who is waiting for results of a scan to reveal the possible impact of the injury, is likely to give his German manager pause, as he prepares to have just one left-back option in contention going into the clash against Everton – Kostas Tsimikas. Academy starlet Luke Chambers, who has travelled with the matchday squad a number of times this season, could yet play understudy, but the 19-year-old is himself still recovering from an ankle injury.
Since joining Manchester United amidst great fanfare, Amrabat’s time at Old Trafford has felt like one step forward, two steps back. Signed on deadline day, the Morocco international had to wait almost a month before the Fiorentina loanee could feature in his first tie in United’s colours, coming off the bench against Burnley.
A strong debut at Old Trafford followed, and the stirrings of promise, including a look at a budding partnership with Casemiro. But after joining up with Morocco for their spate of international ties, Morocco head coach Walid Regragui left the player out for not one but two matches due to injury issues.
The news could be a hammer blow to Ten Hag’s hopes to wrestle the start of the season back under control, with a staggering injury crisis just the first of a number of issues that have bedeviled the club during their campaign so far. Things have become so concerning that United are thought to have opened an investigation into why there are eight senior players out injured – and adding another to the list is unlikely to ease tensions.
Sofyan Amrabat (third from right) spent the start of his United career injured and has picked up yet another knock
Gabriel Jesus (left) was unable to overturn the scoreline against Uruguay in Brazil’s 2026 World Cup qualifier
ARSENAL’S PAIR OF GABRIELS
Neither Gabriel Jesus nor Gabriel Magalhaes covered themselves in glory during a torrid international break for Brazil that saw the country’s unbeaten start to qualifying for the 2026 World Cup slither to a halt against Uruguay.
Despite Gabriel scoring his first-ever international goal against Venezuela he failed to keep Premier League foe Darwin Nunez under wraps, and was seen largely at fault for both of the goals scored by the home side in Montevideo. Jesus was unable to dig the Selecao out of the hole Brazil found themselves in, and attracted similar criticism.
Jesus’ abilities have been called into question in recent weeks after the player missed the start of the season due to a recurring knee injury. The former Man City player has just one Premier League goal to his name thus far, and against adversaries including Tottenham and his old club, Jesus has stuttered leading the line. With Arsenal seemingly on the hunt for striking reinforcements in January, the player’s grip on a place in the starting XI could start to look increasingly shaky.
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